ABC News Reporter Goes Viral for Asking Putin About His Silenced Critics: 'What Are You So Afraid Of?'

CNN Rachel Scott

ABC News' Rachel Scott drew a lot of notice on Wednesday after she bluntly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin about the persecution of his critics and opponents: "What are you so afraid of?"

Scott, who has worked at ABC since 2016, is a congressional correspondent with the network and was part of the press pool traveling with President Joe Biden to Europe.

Biden, 78, met with world leaders at a Group of Seven summit in the U.K. last week, then attended NATO meetings in Brussels before having a face-to-face with Putin, 68, on Wednesday in Geneva.

The first meeting between the two presidents - who share a notably cooler relationship than Putin did with Donald Trump - lasted about three hours, according to the White House.

Biden and Putin then separately held press conferences.

And that's where Scott asked Putin her follow-up after she pressed him for details about his private meeting with Biden.

"The list of your political opponents who are dead, imprisoned or jailed is long," she told Russia's autocratic leader, noting the recent poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose supporters say he is held on politically motivated charges. (Russia says he committed fraud.)

"You have now prevented anyone who supports him to run for office," Scott continued. "So my question is, Mr. President, what are you so afraid of?"

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Putin did not appear fazed by the question, responding that he was repeating answers to questions he had already been asked by other reporters.

He referred to "foreign agents" and an "unauthorized opposition."

"I've already spoken to your colleagues," he said. "Now I have to repeat that to you."

"You didn't answer my question, sir," Scott told Putin. "If all of your political opponents are dead, in prison or poisoned, doesn't that send a message that you don't want a fair political fight?"

Putin again deflected, according to Scott's colleagues at the press conference. Clips of the interaction spread widely on social media, with one being viewed more than half a million times as many American reporters praised her.

Jeff Neira/ABC via Getty Rachel Scott

DENIS BALIBOUSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images From left: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva

"RACHEL. SCOTT. You're gonna wanna remember that name," tweeted Frances Wang, a TV anchor in Miami. Wang said she was "BEAMING with pride" after Scott began trending on Twitter.

Jon Karl, ABC's chief White House correspondent, tweeted his excitement while Aaron Thomas, a reporter in North Carolina, said "Rachel Scott is a FORCE."

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Putin told reporters that his meeting with Biden had "no hostility" and was "very efficient," while the U.S. president said his Russian counterpart was "a worthy adversary."

The Associated Press noted that in the brief public photo-op the two shared, Biden and Putin were "not exceptionally warm" with one another.

And on the topic of Navalny?

Biden gave his own hard-lined response, saying if the Russian opposition leader dies while in state prison, then "the consequences of that would be devastating."